Valerie and Hans Imhof

Faces of Philanthropy

Valerie and Hans Imhof are longtime Pacific Symphony patrons who have contributed greatly to the success of many local arts organizations including Pacific Chorale, South Coast Repertory and Laguna Playhouse. Hans joined the Board of Directors of Pacific Symphony Association in 1993 and is a life member. The role he especially enjoyed was that of Chair of the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles Board of Directors. Under his leadership, the Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble was created, and the already established and vibrant Santiago Strings was brought into the Symphony and was re-named Pacific Symphony Santiago Strings. Valerie studied violin and played Principal Second Violin in the Orange Coast Symphony. In 1994, inspired by conversations with local parents, Valerie co-founded Class Act with Kelly Lucero, the Symphony’s first Education Director. The Frieda Belinfante Class Act program has served over 275,000 students since its founding, making a lasting impact on students and school communities through a unique partnership model, now in its 27th year. Valerie, the program’s unofficial ‘godmother,’ still serves as Program Chair.

Hans, a native of Switzerland, grew up in a small village outside of Zurich on a large family farm. His interest in classical music began when he was a student at the University of Zurich, where he graduated in 1965 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. He immigrated to the United States the next year and worked for General Electric in Philadelphia. In 1969 he moved to Borg Warner Controls in Santa Ana as manager of engineering. In 1972 he started EPE Technologies in Costa Mesa, a manufacturing firm which built power protection equipment for computers. The company grew from two to 550 employees and $65 million in sales. He sold the company in 1990 to Merlin Gerin, a billion-dollar French company. In 1992 he founded eight different companies. Hans’ hobbies include tennis, skiing, mountain climbing, deep-sea fishing, theater and classical music. Aside from his Pacific Symphony activities, Hans has been a past member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers and Electronics Engineer (IEEE). Hans holds 2 patents. 

Valerie grew up in Studio City, California. Her parents were artists who met while working on the movie Fantasia at Disney Studios, and as classical music was always playing on the radio in her home, she fell in love with the sound of the violin and began playing when she was seven. She graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a degree in Social Sciences and a minor in music, traveled for a year in Europe, and then completed a masters and teaching degree at UC Berkeley, specializing in disadvantaged children. She studied violin with the Principal of the San Francisco Symphony and enjoyed playing in many free-lance ensembles. She taught a year of ninth-grade history at Seaside, California, then moved to Laguna Beach where she taught French and remedial English five years at Thurston Intermediate School under an innovative daily-demand flexible scheduling program. She met Hans soon after he moved to Orange County and among their first dates was a performance at South Coast Repertory. They were married in 1971, and have three children, all who have settled in Southern California. Valerie and Hans are devoted grandparents, and currently have two grandchildren pursuing the arts at the university level. 

Valerie and Hans are members of Pacific Symphony’s Crystal Society, recognizing lifetime contributions in excess of one million dollars. This represents extraordinary giving, demonstrating the Imhof’s exceptional leadership as their gifts have inspired many others to give. Valerie’s outstanding guidance has brought many additional leaders, volunteers and philanthropists to Pacific Symphony. She has given her time, resources and passion​ generously to the Symphony. She inspires musicians, staff and school partners to continue to evolve Class Act to best serve students through the power of symphonic music.  

Remembering Sam Anderson

From Sharecropper to Shareholder to Sharing with Others

Sam Anderson, a successful businessman, generous philanthropist and longtime supporter of Pacific Symphony, passed away in April at the age of 86. Born in the midst of the Great Depression in Smith County, Mississippi, his parents were sharecroppers who eventually purchased a small country store and moved into a modest house with no plumbing. He was six years old before he ever took a bath in a real bathtub. “This difficult beginning, watching my mother and father scrimping to provide, had a profound effect on my lifelong attitude toward finances,” Anderson said. “Throughout my life, I have tended to read restaurant menus from the right side and I have owned just three new automobiles.” 

Anderson’s mother died when he was nine years old. Young Sam lived with family members and friends while his father scraped out a living. As a teenager, he worked numerous jobs for little money, earning his way as a carhop, a grocery store stock boy and a construction worker. His grandparents offered to send him to Mississippi College. Many years later, Anderson said, “they gave a gift that would keep on giving.” 

Originally, Anderson wanted to become a doctor, but he left medical school after two years to pursue a career as a salesman in the pharmaceutical industry. He found he had a unique knack for sales and business, and he built a successful career over four decades while also investing wisely in real estate. Eventually his career led him and his family to relocate to Newport Beach. 

“Even though I later lived the American dream, the demons of the life I left behind often chase me. I still have shallowly repressed memories of my struggles between the ages of nine and 18, a period when I worked hard and was viewed by some in the community as a ragamuffin—a near orphan living a shiftless life. I was uncertain of any life beyond that of my father’s, who worked numerous jobs for minimal pay.”

Excerpt from Sam Anderson’s 2018 memoir, From the Cotton Patch to High Cotton 

Sam Anderson’s first wife, Mary Ann, died soon after the couple celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary. He married Susan Smith Jenkins in 2001. The couple’s close-knit, blended family includes their three children and five grandchildren. Over the years, Sam and Susan have been generous supporters of Pacific Symphony. They were the co-chairs of the 2017-18 season opening night celebration. That successful event raised nearly $200,000 for the orchestra’s award-winning artistic and education programs. They have sponsored numerous Symphony performances and have been leading supporters of the orchestra’s Giving Tuesday campaigns, providing generous matching funds that inspired others to give.

Sam and Susan shared a simple desire, as Sam put it, “to save the world.” In addition to their generous support of Pacific Symphony, the couple has given their time and resources to multiple charitable organizations in California, Mississippi and in Africa, where they support a school in Tanzania.

Sam Anderson will be deeply missed and remembered fondly by the Pacific Symphony family.